Seventy-Five Years of Oriya Cinema
It was in the year 1934, a pious man of Puri Mohan Sundar Dev Goswami fist mooted the idea of producing in Oriya Film. Then Orissa lacked the basic infrastructural facilities for the production of film. Neither a good director was their nor a well equipped studio was available.
Mohan Sundar Dev Goswami had scribed his own script based on the drama written by Kampal Mishra and with help of Priyanath Ganguli of Kolkatta had produced fist Oriya film "Sita Bhbaha" which was release in the year 1936, April 28 on occasion of Utkal Gourav Madhusudhan Jayanti at laxmi Takies Puri. "Sita Bhbaha" was the sage of relentless struggle for a manifestation of Oriya identity in celluloid form. It is a trenchant reminder that Oriya Film Industry culminated from a undying determination of dreamers on their path to materialize, facing odds, at home and from outside. Inspite of sincere efforts of Goswami "Sita Bhbaha" commercial failure put the brake on the making of Oriya films for the next 13th years. No financiers were forth coming to invest in another 'disaster'. Then 'Rupa Bharati Ltd.' Perhaps the first such public limited company in India was formed in 1948 and it provide a possible solution to the problem of finance by collecting share Rs.10 to Rs.100 form the general public and declared to produced a film based on the legend associated with lord Jagananth, another film company great Eastern movies tone Pvt. Ltd. came up determine to beat Rupa Bharati. It produced 'Lalita' in 1949. This film story was also based on Lord Jagannath. The following year 'Rupa Bharati Ltd. Company' produced Sri Jagannath based on an episode from Hindu mythology. It pleased for the abolition of untouchbility. The picture was released in 1950. This is the first Oriya Film to be remade in Telgu and was a big hit in South India.
During the fifties, one witnessed the advent of socio-mythologicals. Among the films made were 'Roll-28', a love story directed by Kalyan Gupta, 'Amari Gaan Jhia', another love tale with dramatic twits and turms, 'Kedar Gouri' yet another sentimental love story ending on a tragic note , 'Saptasajya', a shabbily constructed social drama based on the background of myth, and 'Bhai-Bhai' a story woven around the problems of 'Untouchability' and 'cast system'. The films of the fifties was simply 'photographed theaters with a lot of co-incidence in drama, offen leading to melodrama, Sri Mahalaxmi Puja (1959) made by Kabi Raj Krushna Chandra Tripathy Sharma of Aska, Ganjam at the fag end of fifties, was successful commercially. Once again the mythological film proved to be safer bets, Kabiraj Sharma regarded as a pioneer in the line, continues his lone efforts in making films and went on to the dub few films from other language, the name of the few films are "parinam (1960), Dashyu Ratnakar (1962), Nari (1963).
Through the sixties and till the early seventies hardly a film or two were produced in a year. Three major concern were responsible most of the production during this period – Panchasakha productions, The Ghosh family (The husband and wife team of Gour and Parvati Ghosh) and Chhayavani Pratistan of Babulal Doshi. The sixties began with Sri Lokanath which was highly acclaimed. It was also commercially viable. It was a competent film in the context of Oriya Cinema, in the sense, that it had a fresh flavour. Based on the conflicting attitudes of two brothers, one an atheist and the another a theist, the wife of the elder brother acting as a catalyst to compromise between to two, it maintened a smooth narrative pattern. The rural milieu was quite convincing. It is also worthy to note that 'Sri Lokanath is first Oriya Cinema, which get first national award in 1960. the decade from 1960 to 1970 was the glorious decade in Oriya Cinema in terms of quality. A number of Oriya films were made on Oriya Novels by popular Novelist like Kanhu Charan Mohanty (Kaa, Abhinatri), Basanti Kumari Pattnaik (Amadabata) Upendra Kishore Das (Mala Janha) and Kalandi Charan Panigrahi (Matira Manisha) to name a few. The themes of the most of films centered around the ideal women encountering various social and psychological conflicts, ultimately emerging gloriously from all vicissitudes of life. The female protagonists in 'Sadhana' and 'Bhai Bhauja' upheld the traditional values and through tolerance and patience, overcome their problems. During the entire sixties two outstanding film were made, they were 'Majahanha' and 'Matira Manisha', the former is directed by Nitai Palit, and the latter by the noted film maker Mrinal Sen. Commercially both the film did not do well though they showed a definite attitude in Oriya Cinema.
During the fifties and sixties, Gour Prasad, Sarat Pujari, Ratikanta, Pramod acted as heroes and Gloria, Chapala, Shanti Sudha, Sukhalata, Jharana, Geeta, Minati Acted in the role of heroines. Later during the the seventies and eighties, Prasanta Nanda, Sriram Panda, Uttam Mohanty, Bijaya Mohanty, Ajit Das, Tripura Misra, Banaja, Sujata, Malabika, Mahasweta, Deepa Sahu, Niharika, Anita, Subhra Pati, Baisali, Aparajita etc appeared in the leading roles. From eighties to nineties Miher Das, Sidhanta, Rachana Banarjee were ruled the industries. After Mahaswata and Prasanta Nanda, Uttam and Aparajita, Sidhanta-Rachana, duo acted in maximum number of Oriya films.
During the seventies, especially after the runway hit, 'Manata' (1975) directed by Bymokesh Tripathy of Anapurna Theater fame a sudden rise in rate of film production was observed. Though a number of Oriya film were produced no attempt was made to provide the basic amenities to the producers in the state, this inadequacy stood as a major hurdle for producing more films in Oriya language, though Orissa is a land of scenic beauties having rivers, lakes, golden sea beaches for miles together, evergreen forests and temple with unparalled architectural marvels. The Orissa literature enjoys a pride of place in comparison with the classic of other states of the country. To over come the above difficulties and to encourage the upcoming producer in films of Oriya language the Orissa Film Development Corporation Ltd. was established in the year 1976 as a nodal agency for implementing the state policies with a view to promoting the growth of film industries in Orissa. In seventies Oriya Cinema gave birth to its first colour film "Gapa Helevi Sata" (1976) though 'Samaya' (1975) was partially coloured). During the mid seventies, Oriya Cinema lost its direction, films were made with the sole intension of doubling the investments, irrespective of quality. This lead to deterioration of Oriya Cinema, were culture value were thrown the winds, and box office culture of the cheap hindi commercial cinema was imported. Plagiarism become the order of the day. Big budget films came to be made and the decline quality set in.
During the eighties, a total of 119 films were produced on an average of 12 films a year. The maximum number of 17 films were produced during 1986 creating a record in Oriya film industry. In 1988 a total of 15 films were released creating high hopes for a better future. Of the 119 films released during the eighties many became box office hits like Agni Parikhya, Maa-O-Mamata, Aparichita, Kacha Ghara, Samaya Bada Balaban, Phoola Chandan, Jhiati Sita Pari, Bhakta Salabeg, Swapna Sagar, Basanta Rasa, Kaberi and Hakim Babu. Most important event of the Oriya film industry in eighties is arrival of three directors of the "Parallel Cinema" and they have brought the Oriya film industry a fair glory. They were Nirod Mohapatra, Manmohan Mohapatra and Sagir Ahamed all from Pune Film and Television Institute. Nirod Mohapatra's Maya Miriga in 1984 was mile stone in the history of Oriya Cinema. This is the only Oriya Cinema till date to received the National Award as 2nd Best Film in the same year. Shagir Ahamed 'Dhare Allua' selected for Indian panorama in 1984 along with 'Maya Miriga'. On the other hand Manmohan Mohapatra laid the foundation stone of new wave cinema in Orissa in 1982 making his 1st film 'Seeta Rati'. This is the first Oriya film includes in Indian Panorama of Iffi in 1982. after Manmohan, Nirod and Shagir those who have done commendable work for parallel cinema in Oriya includes A.K. Bir, Shantanu Mishra, Biplab Roy Choudhury, Pranab Das, Sushanta Mishra, Subash Das, Bijoy Ketan Mishra, Malay Ray- Gouri Das Himanshu Khatua, Prafulla Mohanty, Chakradhar Sahu, Sabyasachi Mohapatra and Dolly Jena.
By 1990 our film industry had been hit by the T.V. boom and threat from mega star multicore Hindi Commercials. Number of theaters did not improve, major banners were disillusioned about the type of film to make. Same entered the small screen. Audience refuse to see the same 6-8 faces in each film. All permutations and combinations (including introducing non-Oriya Heroine) had been tried 'Jaatraa' (Hindi film style) was flourishing in both rural and urban areas. Colour lab and TV (umatic) unit had been installed in Kalinga Studio. Video units were also setup by private farms. Thus there was apprehension all round regarding the future of the big screen cinema. Despite the grim situation more than 60 films were produced during this period with sudden drops in 1991 and 1995. In 1999 October super cyclone devasted the Oriya film industry in many way, its required more than one year to back his old form. As a director those who have done commendable work for oriya cinema for the last 75 years. Among them Kalyan Gupta, Gopal Ghosh, Prafulla Sen Gupta, Pravat Mukharjee, Sukmar Ganguli, Amar Ganguli, Nitai Palit, Gour Parvati, Sarada Nayak, Nagan Ray, Sisir Mishra, Prasanta Nanda, Md. Mahasin, Biswajit Das, Govinda Tej, Akshya Mohanty (Kashyap), Sadhu Meher, Sarat Pujhari, Rabi Kinnagi, Raju Mishra, Hara Pattnaik, Sabyasachi Mohapatra, Himansu Parija, Sanjay Nayak, Ashok Pati etc.
Since 2000 to till date Oriya Film production growth has been increased. But most of the film were either remake of Hindi, Telgu or Bengali films. Interestingly the most of the recent film producers were in real estate business. For them film is a business like real estate. Though the number of film production is increased but 'Odiyatwa' regional flovour hardly arose when the place, time and characters were all 'Now Oriya'. Yet it is heartening to note that many new talents from the film and Television Institute are coming up to take assignments in Oriya Films. The Industry deserves support from all sections of the society to prevent withering away of this flower which had gladdened many hearts and brought joy to many lives, let the platinum year be the harbinger of its blossoming season.